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Malaysia Celebrates Controversial ASEAN Football Championship


Malaysian players hold the trophy as they celebrate winning the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup football tournament in Jakarta, 29 Dec 2010

Malaysian players hold the trophy as they celebrate winning the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup football tournament in Jakarta, 29 Dec 2010

Malaysia's prime minister has declared a national holiday in honor of the country's victory in a regional football tournament marred by complaints of cheating.

Malaysia lost to Indonesia 2-1 in Wednesday's final match of the ASEAN Suzuki Cup contest, but remained the 4-2 winner overall after a controversial 3-0 victory in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. Bickering over the earlier game became a top global issue on the Twitter social networking site after Indonesia complained that Malaysian fans were distracting them with hand-held laser pens.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak turned to Twitter himself to congratulate the national team on winning the 14-year-old ASEAN tournament for the first time. He told the national news agency, Bernama, that Wednesday was "the greatest night in Malaysian football."

Wednesday's match in Jakarta was played without incident despite high security after anger sparked by the earlier contest. Armored personnel carriers were stationed outside the stadium and Malaysian officials were booed when they came out to inspect the field.

After Sunday's match, Malaysia's sports minister said he was embarrassed by what had happened, and Indonesia's Antara news service said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had asked officials to lodge a formal protest.

Indonesia's players walked off the field for several minutes during the game, saying Malaysian fans were directing laser pens into the faces of players, including the goalkeeper, at key moments.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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